Relaxation over as Lions focus on 3rd test

BY AP • July 5, 2017

After three days spent relaxing in the South Island resort of Queenstown, the British and Irish Lions have resumed in earnest their preparation for Saturday's third and deciding rugby test against New Zealand.

The Lions' decision to travel to Queenstown after winning last weekend's second test and leveling the three-test series was thought to be surprising by some commentators who thought the tourists should have traveled straight to Auckland to begin their third test build-up.

But the Lions say their time in Queenstown, where they jet-boated and bungy-jumped, were important in allowing players to recharge their batteries before the challenge of Saturday's decider.

Assistant coach Neil Jenkins said Wednesday the break the Lions players had enjoyed in Queenstown was important at the end of a long tour and near the end of a much longer season.

''It's nice to have a couple of days off and feel refreshed and ready to go,'' Jenkins said. ''The boys have been flat out for seven weeks. They have been non-stop on this tour let alone the season they already played so I think it's good for the guys to have a bit of down time.''

Jenkins was adamant the Lions' decision to relax at the start of test week was not an indication they under-estimated the task ahead of them or took it lightly. The Lions' win over the All Blacks last weekend was their first in a test in New Zealand since 1993 and they now have the chance to win a series against the All Blacks for the first time in 46 years.

He said the All Blacks have been stung by their 24-21 second-test loss and would be formidable on Saturday as they try to stave off a series defeat and their first loss at Auckland's Eden Park since 1994.

''Look, we know what's coming,'' Jenkins said. ''They're incredibly good, we know that. Very rarely do they lose and very rarely do they lose at home, so everything is on the line ... we know how hard it's going to be.''

Hooker Jamie George, who has been in outstanding form throughout the test series, said the Lions players are ''fully aware of what's at stake.''

''I think it's going to be a fantastic occasion on Saturday and one again that we'll never forget,'' he said. ''(But) we can't get carried away with the emotional side of the game. We've got to make sure that physically we are on it, mentally we are on it, we know our stuff and we can go into the game with clear heads and really attack it.''

George said the Lions would have to sharply improve their discipline in the third test after conceding 10 kickable penalties in the second, of which seven were converted by All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett.

''We made it very difficult at times with our discipline,'' he said. ''I don't think many teams can say they came back from 18-9 down in those conditions to win the game so we're really happy with that.''